An Escape


By Ben Anthony

​Michael didn’t feel anything in particular as he undid the hitch and let the canoe slip into the water. It rocked back and forth until coming to a rest against the wooden frame of the boat ramp. The sun was out there somewhere beyond the pines, and he knew that he needed to make his way out sooner rather than later. He took out his phone, checked the time, and tossed it as far as he could manage into the river—it landed with a soft splash a few yards away. Michael went through his wallet, took out his driver’s license and threw that into the river, too.

With a paddle in one hand, he shoved the canoe with the other until it came loose and floated idly on the water. After a failed first effort, he pulled himself inside and took a moment to catch his breath. Pale, lavender clouds turned the mist above the water some shade of light purple and the air tasted fresh—like a drink from the hose as a kid on a hot Florida day. A few cormorants stuck their slender necks up from the river further out and Michael couldn’t help but think they were some of the ugliest birds he’d ever seen. His paddle struck water and the canoe skirted along, sometimes bumping against a hidden grove of pondweed, but making headway nonetheless. And to think he’d been told just a few months ago that he needed to restrain himself to only a few hours of activity a day.

Just some ways further, he thought, feeling the weight in his pocket.

The sun peeked through the trees and though the joints in his hands hurt, Michael proceeded on, pushing against the water with firm, determined strokes. Against his better judgement, he took a short glance back at the shore and saw his small white truck still parked at the boat ramp, unlocked and ready to get towed, or crushed, or sold, or whatever they did with abandoned vehicles. It didn’t matter at this point, he was making progress. Steady progress, too.

Two is plenty.

After some time, he guessed that he’d reached a good distance up the river; the boat ramp had disappeared behind a bend and from what Michael could tell, he was alone. A few sparrows exchanged perches and a fish rattled the glazed surface. He let the paddle drag in the water, slowing the canoe to a crawl as he felt for his pocket again. There’d be no one to upset: no passerby or neighbor to hear his abrupt departure. No one to talk him out of it. Moreover, Michael couldn’t think of anything that gave him more agency—there were no senior assistance programs to hold his hand through suicide.

He pulled the snub-nosed revolver out from his pocket and rolled it over a few times in his hands. It was frigid, and before long, dewdrops were falling from the barrel. At the flick of his wrist, the cylinder ejected, showing two rounds nestled there.

Everything about it was perfect—that rugged steely texture against his well-worn hands. The wooden grip made from Wenge with the initials of his granddad scratched onto the frame rested comfortably into his palm. The cylinder clicked back into position with the push of a trembling thumb. He wiped his eyes and tried to remember a prayer—any prayer—but after a moment, gave up in frustration.

“Okay, Mikey,” he said to himself. “Here we go.”

He held it up against his temple with white knuckles and placed his finger on the trigger. In his mind, he thought back to his pop strapping him down into a kayak when he was just a small boy. He was stuck sitting there, allowed to watch as his pop paddled onward down the stream. Though he smiled when they passed a stack of sleeping turtles or saw a deer bolt into the woods, it felt distant. Never did he come across a sleeping turtle or a skittish deer without having pop get there first. This, this was his time. He was a pioneer into himself.

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